Burn This City
Stay up all night and sleep all day, we were smart kids with too much to say. And so, so sure that they were missing out, they're the ones who were missing out. We were elemental, talked down to bare essentials. Who knew we'd get so far? Cause our days were numbered by nights, on too many rooftops. They said we'd burn so bright, we Burn This City and go. ~Burn This City-Cartel.
New York, 2034.
He feels heat on his face. He hears the birds chirping and the sounds of his family getting ready around him. Ororo is already out of bed, but that doesn't surprise him. In all the years he's known her, that woman has never slept in past six.
Remy turns on his side and scoots deeper into the Egyptian Silk sheets. It really is time to get up; the party is today and the house needs cleaning. There is food to be prepared, kids have to dress—but still he does not move. He'd like to chalk his delay up to the fact that it's a Saturday morning; what middle-aged man wouldn't want to sleep in? Especially after last night: watching all three of his sons' football games could be pretty exhausting, and it didn't make it any easier that his back is giving him trouble again. It's all a lie though, just like his entire life is a lie. The tired he feels is in a whole different category. This tired plagues his bones and makes him sore. This tired fills his lungs; it prevents him from ever really taking a deep breath.
Remy has had this tired for so long, he sometimes forgets what it was like to be unburdened. Back in those days, he was young, so very young. He laughed freely, he ran fast, he jumped high, he was weightless, he was carefree. His only worries had been booze, women, and…well, that was it. That was as far as his tiny brain could stretch. Young Remy never thought about what might happen in the future. Young Remy just assumed everything would work itself out in the end. As a thief, he'd been taught to lay back, to take life as it came at you. You didn't try to predict the outcome of anything, you didn't try to change it once it did happen. Hell, even gambling wasn't a gamble in his world. He knew his deck like he knew how to breathe: he knew the decks of those around him better than they could ever hope to. And so he went through life blindly, without drive. He was oblivious to things he could have made better, oblivious of the people he hurt. Young Remy figured his sins would never catch up to him: he was too fast. He was invincible. But of all his foolish mistakes, there is one he can't let go of, even now.
Knowing he took Rogue's love for granted will haunt him for the rest of his life, and maybe even beyond.
He gets up then. He rips the covers off and rushes to the bathroom. Filling the sink with freezing cold water, he shoves his head in it. This is a diversion, a scapegoat, a small punishment for letting his mind wander in dark crevasses where it shouldn't go. If he let the memories slide in, if he let himself think of her…
He'll drown, he knows he will.
Play it again, (our games of love and lust.)There's no such thing (no there's never too much). And we were so, so sure, no we never had a doubt. We're counting down the days to getting out. And we were elemental, talked down to bare essentials. Who knew we'd get so far? Cause our days were numbered by nights, on too many rooftops. They said we'd burn so bright, Burn This City and go. ~Burn This City-Cartel.
Present Day New York.
He'll drown, he knows he will.
"Uh, chére?" Gambit peeks over the ledge, and instantly regrets it. "Did I tell y' I can't swim?" His face is so pale she almost feels sorry for him.
"You've told me about twenty times, swamp rat. An' guess how many times Ah've told ya Ah'm almost done?"
He gulps, trying to make the least amount of movement possible. "Twenty?"
"Bingo!" The belle rolls her emerald eyes and goes back to her canvas. "Now stop botherin' me so Ah can finish this."
The Cajun inhales shakily and does as he's told. When Rogue told him she wanted to paint him, he'd been more than willing. He'd even given her a few ideas: she could paint him on his bed, naked. Or by the fireplace, naked. Or in her bed, naked. Or in the nice hot bathtub, naked. Even though she dismissed all his great ideas, he was still pretty excited. Not only had he never seen Rogue in action, but from what he heard, she was a different woman when she was painting. And it was true, she smiled more, she snapped at him less, she even flirted a bit more… Only Remy couldn't enjoy her good mood to the fullest, due to his current predicament. He'd do anything for his chère, he just didn't expect that to include climbing up an icy staircase to sit on an even icier diving board for two whole hours in the middle of winter.
"I t'ink y' picked dis spot just to torture me." He sniffles, and proceeds to sneeze.
Rogue bites her lip to keep from smiling and clears her throat. "Why would ya think that? It's not like you've ever given me any reason to get back at ya—"
"What was dat?"
"Ah said come down here. Ah'm done."
They were getting further along in their ritual. He'd scrubbed her slightly-freckled face, her squat back, her tiny feet, all at a painfully slow pace. He was a thorough man, he never missed a spot. It's on to her undeveloped chest. He lathers each delicate nipple with soap, and gently rinses them. The sweat is now forming on his brow, because they're getting closer to his favorite part. Her bellybutton is next, she hears Daddy's heart go 'thump, thump' when he reaches her chubby thighs.
"Stand up, Marie. Daddy's gotta clean everythin'."
She doesn't move, she can't move. So daddy does it for her, and lifts her by the arms. "Don't ya wanna be clean? Good little Christian girls are clean, Marie. God won't let ya into Heaven if there's dirt down there, will he?"
"Chére, it's, it's tres magnifique!" He holds her painting in one hand and a cup of hot cocoa in the other.
"Ya sure it's not cause yoah the subject?"
Remy smirks impishly at her raised eyebrow and thrust hip. "Okay, so maybe my pretty face made y' job much easier-"
She snorts and takes a sip from her own steaming mug.
"-mais seriously, y' real good."
His big grin and husky voice have the same effect on her that they always do, and she focuses on her drink. "Well Ah better get this upstairs, don't want anythin' happenin' to yoah 'pretty face'." She moves to leave but his arm goes around her shoulder.
"I'll go with y'. Need to get some dry clothes anyway."
Remy looks down at Rogue while they walk. She clutches the painting to her chest, and to his distress, she looks absolutely uncomfortable. This comes as no shock to him. In fact, he's surprised she's let his arm stay around her for this long. It's one of the many things he's learned to accept about Rogue: no touch. No kissing, no holding hands without a barrier, no snuggling. She would even snap at him for trying to hold her once in a while. To an outsider, he appears to be a saint. A sexually-active man such as himself with an inexperienced, untouchable girl like Rogue? He must have patience galore! But he and Rogue know better. They know he's weak, that he's a slave to the flesh.
Maybe what's more horrible than him cheating on her is that she knows about it; she condones it.
"Wait for me?" he asks as they reach his door, and she nods slowly, following him in.
The Cajun strips quickly, unashamed by his nakedness. He has no problem changing in the middle of the room, and Rogue tries to pretend she doesn't either. She runs her fingers along the pictures he keeps on the television. Most of them are of her or them together. They look so grins are so big. Had they ever been this happy in the real world? The world where Remy drank too much, partied too hard, and broke her heart for every night he didn't come home. 'Cause she knows where he is. She can imagine the girl he's with.
But it's her own fault. She brings it on herself. It doesn't have to be this way: Remy had offered to risk his life so many, many times. "I can t'ink of so many ways around y' skin, chère. Just lemme try."' Rogue dreads the day when she's weak enough to give in.
The belle dares to look behind her, and so many emotions slam into her at once, she thinks she might fall over. Remy stands completely naked in front of his dresser, digging for clothes in the seemingly endless drawer. Rogue hasn't seen very many naked men in her life, so she has nothing to compare with, but she doesn't need to. Anyone could see that Remy LeBeau is a work of art, a masterpiece of a man. His broad shoulders, his muscled legs and arms, that hard, rippling stomach, the robust manhood hanging proudly between his legs… Rogue whips back around, clamping her eyes, and legs, shut. Gambit was made for pleasure. To be touched, kissed, physically loved. She can't do these things for him and probably won't ever be able to.
Some days she would wake up saying, "Fuck it." On those days, she thinks of throwing caution to the wind and letting Remy ravish her like he so badly wants to. But then he would smile, that lopsided, adorable smile. Or he would make some silly joke, making her laugh. In those moments, Rogue knows if anything ever happened to that man, she would never laugh again. After that, she would hide away and avoid him for days so she could ease the fire raging within her—like she's about to do now.
"Remy?" Her voice wavers; he'll know something's up. He has always been able to read her so easily.
"Oui?" He pulls his jeans over his boxers, his shirt over his head, and sure enough there's concern on his face.
"Ah'm gonna go, 'kay? Ah've got some errands to run—"
"I'll go with y'."
"No!" Rogue ducks her head and wishes she could slow the beating of her heart. "Ya don't have to, really. Ah'm just gonna go by myself—"
"Why would y' do a t'ing like dat," he murmurs. He keeps a steadfast grip on her wrist.
Rogue won't face him, she keeps her body turned towards the door, to sweet freedom. "Please, Remy."
"Tell me why." He's getting impatient now. He holds the other wrist, too. He's known her long enough to sense when one of her 'spells' is coming. She won't talk to him, look at him, won't even acknowledge his presence in a room. He can't understand why she would decide to do this now. Things were so good lately… Or maybe he's mistaken.
"Because Ah—" She stares at the window behind him, trying to ground herself. She bites her lip hard and he feels her tremble.
Remy instantly softens, and holds her even though he knows she doesn't want that. "Because why, p'tite? Y' know y' can tell me anyt'ing."
Rogue shudders, but she looks him in the eye. "Because Ah want it, Remy."
At first he doesn't comprehend, but upon closer inspection, he notices her heavy breathing, her flushed cheeks, her darkened eyes…It all makes sense to him now. "Oh." And then: "Oh, chère." He gathers the belle even tighter in his embrace, letting her feel how much he wants her, too. "I'm more den willin' to give it, y' know dat," he whispers in her hair. The sizzling heat between them is abundant.
"Ah know." She escapes from his arms somehow. "And that's why Ah can't take it."
She's gone before he can stop her, before he can beg her to let him show his love.
Rogue chokes on a sob and scrubs her hands even harder. No matter how fast she rubs her fingers together, no matter how much soap she uses, she can still feel it on her hands, she can still smell what she's done.
Why she feels guilty after she touches herself, the belle doesn't know. She feels so good during, when some of that tension is released, when she loses herself in orgasm. But when she falls, when the sensation fades and she's aware again, she feels dirty. Is it because she imagines the fingers caressing her clit are Remy's? Is it because as she reaches her climax, it's his name she sighs? It isn't right, she knows this. They're stolen bits, they're an act. Remy has never touched her like that, and maybe he never will. Like a child, she's playing pretend, and it's time to grow up. She's twenty-two years old: she learned long ago that life isn't a fairy tale. She isn't a princess; she'll never have a prince on a white horse to come and rescue her.
Or maybe it isn't that at all. Could it be something so deep and scarring she doesn't let herself think about it? Perhaps she feels disgusting because everywhere her fingertips roam, they awaken where her father's had been, years and years ago.
Touch is bad, it doesn't matter whether it's somebody else's or her own. Touch equals hurt. It's the equation she's lived her life by and always will.
He barely has enough time to slip on his uniform and run downstairs before Scott begins the briefing. His eyes instantly find Rogue as he enters the War Room. It's an old habit. She pretends not to notice. She hasn't saved him a spot.
The Cajun sits next to Warren instead, and annoyance and hurt make his stomach ache. What has he done wrong? Did he push her too hard? Or did he not push enough? One could never tell with Rogue: her moods are like the tide, always changing.
His gaze burns into her. He knows she has to feel it. But she knows how to keep her composure, and she knows how to stay cool. Her poker face rivals even his own.
"She's managed to escape again." Scott's voice is thin, like he's speaking through an old radio, and all the sound can't come through. "The Professor has managed to locate her by using Cerebro, she's somewhere in Central Park. Logan has already begun watch. She hasn't moved yet."
Remy hadn't been paying attention before, but he notices Scott's strange demeanor now. He's pale and haggard, like the entirety of mankind is pressing down on him.
"Oh, Scott." Rogue's hand goes to his shoulder, and Cyclops squeezes her back, attempting a smile. "We'll bring her back, shuga. We always do."
"I-I know, Rogue." He forces himself to straighten, to look the part of the fearless leader. "You've been briefed. Head to the Blackbird."
Remy understands Scott needs comfort, but why does his chère have to be the one to do it? Isn't Storm or Betsy or Kitty or any of the other team members enough support? He loves Jean just as much as the next person: she is kind, patient, the kind of girl you'd go to when you're in trouble, because she would do everything she could to help you.
It's her husband the Cajun doesn't like. One-Eye has always shown a soft-spot for Rogue. He's always shown her kindness that he rarely shows anybody else. It's past the point of being friendly. Gambit is far from clueless. Scott looks at Rogue the same way he does his wife. He can tell there is some kind of history between the two, but Rogue will never give him a straight answer.
Remy rises with the rest of the group. He can't stop watching her. "Chère?"
She ignores him and continues talking to Piotr, one of her old flames. He speeds up, expertly bypassing people in the cramped hangar and trying to catch her before she reaches the dock, but he's stopped by a cool hand on his shoulder.
"Give her time, my friend." Ororo's blue eyes twinkle. He feels the calm radiating off of her. "Our southern belle needs her space. You should know this more than anyone."
"Trust me, Stormy. I know very well."
And he looks so pitiful, she doesn't even threaten him for calling her that obnoxious name.
Central Park looks strange from above, like an oasis of green in a mostly concrete world.
Cyclops grips the controls tightly and guides the plane down to ground safely. After unbuckling his harness, he turns to them all and tries not to crumble right there. "Jean isn't in control right now. I want you to remember that. That…thing in her body won't hesitate to use her full strength and slay us all." He finds Rogue's eyes, and stays there a moment before continuing. "Do what you must."
He's given them permission. Kill his wife if it means you survive.
None of them receive any comfort from this.
The goddess nods. Her blue orbs disappear and white takes its place. She motions for Archangel and Cannonball to follow her, and they swoop off into the night sky.
"We'll do everything we can. We love her, too." With that, Beast pummels through the door, Psylocke, Colossus, and Shadowcat right behind him.
"Guess we should go," Gambit murmurs, waiting for Rogue to follow he and Iceman.
"You two go ahead. I just need a few minutes with Rogue, alone."
"Coolio. Let's go—"
"Anyt'ing y' say to her, y' say to me, too." Remy's orbs glow dangerously.
Veins on Cyclops' forehead throb.
"Remy." Rogue sounds hard, impatient. "Go. Ya bein' ridiculous."
He manages to tear his glare away from Scott. "Chère, I—"
"This isn't about us right now!" The belle shakes her head. "Believe it or not, there are more important things than Remy LeBeau on this Earth."
This hurts him. They can all see the way his hands ball into fists, the way his throat tightens.
"Come on, man." Iceman pats him on the back.
"Don' touch me." Gambit shrugs off his hand and throws one last hateful sneer in Cyclops' direction before leaving the two alone.
Scott turns to her, ashamed. "I can't believe I'm even asking this from you—"
"S'okay, Scott." She smiles, knowing he would do the same for her. It's hard though, to see the pain on Remy's face when she sent him away. She didn't want to snap at him, but sometimes that boy is too stubborn for his own good.
He runs a hand through his hair. It's hard to guess what he's thinking with that damned visor on his face. "I had a dream last night, about Jean…and you."
"Oh? Sounds interestin'."
He manages to blush despite the situation.
"Um, well. It starts out with Jean on fire. She's crazy, screaming and trying to kill us all."
"Where do Ah come in?" The sounds of battle reach her ears. She itches to get out there.
"You touch her."
Rogue goes pale. He couldn't be asking what she thinks— "How does it end?" She attempts to swallow all her fear. It's impossible. There's too much of it.
Scott takes her gloved hand in his. "The fire disappears. Jean is smiling again."
The rest of the ground team notices Gambit's anger as soon as he comes outside. How couldn't they?
"Is everything alright?" Piotr speaks for them all.
He whips a fresh deck of cards from his trench pocket and smirks at the Russian. "Did we come here to chat? Or did we come to get Jeannie back?"
"For once,"—Wolverine appears from the trees—"I agree with you, Gumbo."
"Wolvie!" Kitty grins that infectious grin of hers, and the Canadian does his best to return the favor.
"Hey there, half-pint." He enters the circle and sighs. "She knew I was here from the moment I was within a mile of the park. Don't know why she hasn't welcomed us—"
"I think you spoke to soon, love." Betsy moves her graceful body into a crouching position, violet weapons appearing in her hands.
Instantly alert, the team turns to see Phoenix gliding through the night. The air team is nowhere in sight.
"Shadowcat, phase through the brush and find those three!" Scott jogs to the group, a pale Rogue at his side.
"Y' okay, chère?"
She doesn't answer. He hadn't really expected her to.
"Aye, aye captain!" Kitty salutes Cyclops and runs off.
"Alright, team, we've trained enough, we can do this." Is he trying to convince them, or himself?
Before they can launch, Phoenix speaks. "I do not wish to waste precious time destroying you mortals." The voice is Jean's, the body is Jean's, but those glowing yellow eyes and fire-engulfed body make it hard to believe. Power rolls off her in waves, her voice is magnified, and Gambit resists the urge to cover his ears.
"But make no mistake, I will do whatever it takes to keep this body as my own. I will not give ending your meaningless lives a second thought."
"Now," Cyclops murmurs. He can't look away from his wife. If that's even his wife up there.
The X-men need no more encouragement, and Colossus begins launching trees at the being. She avoids them easily, maneuvering her lithe body this way and that.
Unspeakable rage makes the fire around her increase. "Foolish mortals. You have been warned." And then she's sweeping towards them, the pits of Hell glow in her golden orbs.
Rogue feels the hair on the back of her neck stand on end. Her mouth goes dry and she slips off her gloves.
"Remember, Rogue," Scott whispers, glancing down at her bare hands. "Use your absorption powers as a last resort only! I don't want you getting hurt." He releases his optic beams, and Phoenix is thrown back.
Iceman uses this to his advantage and propels ice-bullets at her face, while Beast uses boulders to knock her down even further.
Phoenix unleashes Jean's telepathy, and the X-men are forced to their knees.
"Chère?" Remy cries out, unable to move his neck to find the woman he loves. He wants her by his side. He wants to know she's okay—
A clap of thunder sounds nearby, and lightning strikes Phoenix square in the back. She screams in outrage as she slams into the ground. Kitty and the air team come into sight.
"Good work, Storm!" Scott turns to the fallen woman. How he loves her…and how he hates her, for not being the one he gave his heart to.
He moves in towards the crater, feeling Rogue's small hand in his.
"Stop!" Betsy cries, sensing the spike of power. But it's too late, Phoenix has arisen.
"Mon dieu."Gambit gasps. For a moment, seeing Jean lift all trees, rocks, benches, and anything else, shocks him into silence. But he realizes the wave is coming for them next, and he finds Rogue through the confusion and screams for her to run, but she's going the opposite way, towards the danger…
"Chère!" But his voice is swallowed up by the wave and somebody is yanking him to safety, that isn't want he wants—
The belle looks around from the boulder Scott pushed her behind, seeing Scott and the others being flung every which way into the debris, hearing Remy cry her name— This looks like a last resort situation if she's ever seen one, and she runs towards Phoenix, seeing her friend deep down within.
"Ah know ya in there, Jean!" She sidesteps rocks, flips over branches, and rolls to the ground to avoid being smashed by a car. "An' Ah'm gonna help get ya out!"
The fire licks at her face. It feels as if her very flesh is being ripped away from her bones. Her fingers rest on Jean's wrist, and all other sound is drowned out by their twin screams of anguish.
She's seventeen, and she's cutting for the first time. It's raining outside. It's been going and going for days. It's grey. The sky looks like one big mush, and it only adds to her sour mood. It brings how sad she really is to the surface.
The razor leaves a scarlet ribbon across her delicate wrist. It's been exactly one year since she kissed Cody for the last time. It's been one year since she ran away from home. It's been one year since she's seen Irene, the only mother she ever had.
Her blood spills over, bubbling up to say 'Hello.' The rush is amazing, the endorphins being released make her giddy. And so she makes another. And another, and another, and another until both of her arms are a bloody mess. But still she hasn't reached the ultimate high. She's riding close, but the tears continue to fall, and she brings the razor to her thighs.
Eventually, she's lost so much blood that the ache in her chest subsides and the only thing she feels is the dull sting of her wounds.
In the tiny, murky place that comes before unconsciousness, she thinks back to that night when she lost everything and took a boy's life. Her childhood friend's life. She never noticed the eerie similarity before now: She kissed Cody, she killed Cody. The two are closely linked in her realm
"What in God's name were you thinking?" Betsy shouts once Hank secures both Rogue and Jean. "Jean is the world's most powerful telepath, and she couldn't even handle Phoenix! What made you come up with the ridiculous idea that Rogue could?"
Scott hides his face. It's all his fault. Rogue is hurt because of his selfishness… He can't do it. He can't watch her die—
"Maybe you could, like, explain what happened, Scott," Kitty offers, not liking confrontation.
"Dere's nothin' to explain." They all turn to Remy, who has sat silently rubbing circles into Rogue's hand for the past four hours. "He fucked up, an' ma chére is payin' for it." His jaw clenches and unclenches.
"My students, please!" Xavier receives the silence he so greatly needs and shakes his head. "If we are going to pull through this as a team, we must work together. Pointing blame at one another isn't going to make our girls wake up any faster."
"Chuck," Logan pleads, "are you sure there's no way you could wake them up?"
Beast answers for the Professor as he wipes his glasses across his lab coat. "Completely out of the question, my friend. Forcing them out of their slumber would bring about very grave consequences indeed."
"What y' mean?" Remy's face is pale and he's beginning to lose his cool. "Why can't he go in deir heads and make everyt'ing better?"
Betsy rolls her eyes. "Bloody hell. Non-telepaths are so dreadful to speak with…What he means, love, is Rogue and Jean's minds need time to recover. Waking them up now would hinder that healing process, and the damage it would cause would far outweigh the trouble they're in now." Her face softens slightly. "I can't say I know how you blokes feel,"—she looks to both Scott and Remy—"but I know if anything like this happened to Warren, I'd be singing the same tune you two are."
Charles smiles, silently thanking their purple-haired companion. "She's absolutely right, you know. If there was any faster way…but there isn't. Will you trust me on this, Remy?"
The Cajun swallows and nods stiffly. "I'm not leavin' her though."
"Of course not! I'm sure Hank would be happy to set up a bed next to our Southern friend."
"Of course." The blue doctor smiles encouragingly. "Should I make one up for you as well, Scott?"
The man in question stares blankly at the shiny tile floor. He tried to keep his eyes on Jean, but the sight of Remy touching Rogue so openly is hard to ignore. He is very concerned for the red-head of course—he does love his wife…Jean is perfect in every way. Any man would want her.
But he'd much rather have the diamond in the rough that Remy is so fortunate to possess: Rogue. She isn't perfect. She doesn't try to be. And maybe that's why he needs her so much.
Pack our bags and get away - they're catching on to us. So pack our bags and get away - they're catching on to us. Pack our bags and get away - they're catching on to us. Pack our bags and get away - they're catching on to us. Cause our days were numbered by nights, on too many rooftops. They said we'd burn so bright, we Burn This City and go. ~Burn This City- Cartel.
September 02, 2010: I must fall to my knees and praise the Great aiRo25. She corrected all of the spelling, grammar, and other mistakes this chapter was riddled with. She even changed comas to semi-colons, or colons- basically the stuff I am completely lost with. I hope some of the classes I'm taking will help me with some of this stuff...O.o
The only other changes I made included changing the scene dividers, and replacing the first italic memory and removing the second one. Nothing that directly affects the story has been changed.